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Back to the future

Agriculture.com Staff 03/16/2006 @ 2:13pm

March in the Treasure Valley brings a flurry of activity to farms of all sizes. Spring ground work begins with a vengeance and the smell of freshly turned earth fills the air. For farmers, whether weekend or full time, this is the starting gun for another year. So far this year the farming season has been a bit slow getting started. With persistent showers and wet soils, the frustration of the potential of a late starting crop year is tempered with the realization that we really needed this wet winter!

Here at Sunrise Acres, farm work has consisted of trapping gophers and replacing batteries. Even though our tractors have seen their hours of use drastically reduced, they still need maintaining. When we were full time farmers, replacing batteries and tires was just part of doing business. Now that these workhorses sit silently for long periods of time, repairs are an unwelcome burden on the wallet. The discussion has started as to the intelligence of maintaining machinery that sees so little use. With the growth in our area, the crop rotation of choice has turned to houses.

In my full time job designing and selling irrigation systems, I have had the opportunity to see first hand the evolution of farming in our area. When my father started his farming career in Idaho, 40 acres was a family operation. Usually there was a house on most 40 acre parcels in the Wilder area. Farm work was transformed when small tractors took over for teams of horses.

As economies of scale changed, many of these houses were removed as some families moved off the farm and those who stayed enlarged their operations. Tractor sizes increased as demands for the ability of farm more acres were met. Now it seems the cycle has turned the other way. People are returning to the land to have their dream to grow something of their own met. The crop they grow is not expected to make their "living" or to even cover expenses. Often it is just to help relieve the stresses of their own personal lives. As these new farmers return to the land, so has the small tractor. This new wave of acreage farmers has brought a huge demand for small equipment. Nothing brings joy to the heart of a farmer of any size like the smell of diesel smoke on a calm farm evening.

The wet March has made for slow progress in getting irrigation systems installed for my customers. The construction of a center pivot system begins with the delivery of the pivot from the factory in Nebraska. A time is set to meet the delivery truck at a predetermined location such as a truck stop or other landmark. He is then led to the field where the pipe and parts are unloaded as the truck drives in a flagged line. Gearboxes, tires, electric cable, and other parts are laid out in the order they will be built. In a scene resembling a crash site, a modern pivot is erected. This season sales have been brisk but with wet, muddy fields the plan has changed. Some pivots have had to be off loaded in dry lots or in accessible field corners. The spans are built in these locations, then towed to the concrete pivot pad where they are finally fastened together and finished. This means waiting for a frosty morning when the ground is hard enough to support the trucks. While slowing the process, at least our crew can keep making progress. We all know that while its cold and wet now, the frantic irrigation season is rapidly approaching.

Hopefully we all can appreciate the dedication it takes to make a farm work in these changing times, while there are still farms to appreciate.

From Sunrise Acres, have a great Spring.

--The Butlers

March in the Treasure Valley brings a flurry of activity to farms of all sizes. Spring ground work begins with a vengeance and the smell of freshly turned earth fills the air. For farmers, whether weekend or full time, this is the starting gun for another year. So far this year the farming season has been a bit slow getting started. With persistent showers and wet soils, the frustration of the potential of a late starting crop year is tempered with the realization that we really needed this wet winter!

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